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The scrubber drier success story

23 May 2017

The beginnings of mechanical floor cleaning date back over 100 years developed to simplify what had until then been arduous manual work.

The beginnings of mechanical floor cleaning date back over 100 years developed to simplify what had until then been arduous manual work.

Kärcher, the world’s leading cleaning technology provider talks us through a brief history and how customers’ needs have helped shape the voyage of innovation. A wet floor cleaner was first introduced in the 1930s, followed two decades later by a version including a vacuum function.

However it wasn’t until 1986 that the first walk-behind machine arrived; featuring roller brushes it scrubbed, vacuumed and swept in a single pass, greatly improving cleaning performance.

Since then the scrubber drier has become an integral part of floor cleaning, and fresh customer requirements have shaped its evolution: models with disc or roller technology, for different floor textures, machines for heavily-furnished areas and the smallest surfaces, modular concepts for improved flexibility and efficiency, eco-concepts for protecting the environment and conserving resources, as well as innovative solutions for better ergonomics.

Digitisation has found its way into fleet and process management systems, leading the way into the future:

Trend No. 1: roller or disc?

The tried-and-tested single-disc technology changed in 1986 when Kärcher launched a walk-behind roller brush machine.

This was the company's answer to a regional challenge: whilst floors in Asia, Southern Europe and the USA are often smooth and easy to clean with disc technology, floors in Northern and Central Europe tend to be more textured, ie grouted tiles or natural stone with rougher surfaces.

Roller brushes, irrespective of the floor texture, deliver improved scrubbing and polishing performance and therefore a more uniform result, even on heavily soiled floors.

Trend No. 2: from the gym to the restaurant?

Large, unobstructed areas have always been easy to clean with scrubber driers. Models for small, heavily-furnished areas place higher demands on machine development.

The main focus here is not necessarily speed, as a good cleaning operative can clean up to 500m2/h with a mop; the thoroughness of the clean and removal of the dirty water provide superior quality results over manual methods.

In the mid-1990s, Kärcher launched what was then world's smallest floor cleaning machine. The BS 350 worked with a cleaning fleece instead of roller brushes or disc, while the cleaning and suction unit was operated with an electric motor making the machine very compact and manoeuvrable.

The advent of solutions for areas as small as 20m2 made it possible to clean washrooms, salesrooms and seating areas by machine for the first time.

Most recently innovative steering concepts that allow the brush head to be controlled directly via a steering wheel provide high manoeuvrability even for heavily-furnished areas and the use of Li-ion batteries, provides a significant weight reduction.

Trend No. 3: more function, less investment?

Faced with a demand for a wider variety of models hand-in-hand with the need for low investment costs, Kärcher knew a change was required; and the platform strategy was born.

The idea of using as few parts as possible in order to considerably reduce development and production costs has been successfully employed in Kärcher R&D since 2000.

The latest machines are freely configurable by the operator; according to floor texture, surface and degree of soiling.

Roller or disc, battery or cord, with/without protective roof, wide/narrow wheels – the list can be as diverse as when buying a new car.

This includes innovative accessories such as automatic cleaning agent dosing units or systems for setting up different user profiles for operators, service technicians and facility managers.

Trend No. 4: focusing on the environment?

Eco concepts on the increase.

Ecology has become an increasingly important topic for building service contractors and their customers in recent years, significantly affecting the demand for ecologically sustainable solutions.

Today, different manufacturers offer ECO modes which, depending on the degree of soiling, can adjust the energy and resource consumption to suit the cleaning task at hand.

Noise emission is another important topic which has driven continual improvements in power output, whilst conserving precious water resources has the added benefit of allowing longer cleaning times on a single tank.

Kärcher’s commitment to climate-neutral cleaning extends from the avoidance of CO2 in machine production to the eco!efficiency mode on its machines to eco!zero, a compensation program for its customers to offset CO2 emissions in cleaning applications through support of climate projects.

Trend No. 5: everything for the operator?

Ergonomics and product design.

When the first floor polisher was introduced, the main focus was how could work be made easier?

Since the 1990s, ergonomics has been the key driver, not only for user-friendliness but also regulated by law.

With some walk-behind machines weighing 500kg, being able to set the handle position and precisely control the traction drive to suit the individual operator has a huge impact on fatigue-free working.

Other ergonomic concepts include control elements in prominent colours and easy brush replacement at the push of a button.

Likewise dirty water tanks, where nothing adheres to the surface or are self-cleaning - ideally with an automatic rinsing system – mean greater hygiene and more convenient handling for the operator.

The product design also makes work easier – although it is often said that it isn’t important in the cleaning industry, the popularity of Kärcher’s sleek, inconspicuous anthracite exteriors appears to refute this.

Kärcher is always striving to make users’ work a more enjoyable experience and acknowledges people don’t always embrace the joy of cleaning; when it launched its 1988 trike - based on the motorised three wheelers of the motorcycle world - the press release read "Due to its attractive appearance and ride comfort, the model promises more enjoyment and greater motivation during the often unpopular task of cleaning"!

Back to the future:

leading the way – automation and more

The full adoption of partly or even fully automated solutions still seems to be a long way off - despite the fact that Kärcher developed a cleaning robot back in the 1990s!

Although there are already machines available on the market, they are designed for large surfaces and are only economically viable there.

Digitisation and automation will certainly offer new possibilities for floor cleaning, however always oriented on clear added value for the user.

If safety and efficiency can be combined 100% in the area of cleaning robots and also realised on small, heavily-furnished areas, then truly autonomous cleaning may yet be the trend for the next 100 years of scrubber driers.


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